A few weeks into the new school year, we checked in with day schools in the region to see what is new…
HERITAGE ACADEMY JEWISH COMMUNITY DAY SCHOOL
594 Converse St., Longmeadow, MA 01106
The teachers at Heritage Academy received an intensive two weeks of training prior to welcoming students back to school. This training was provided by World ORT Kadima Mada (WOKM) through the generosity of Helen Goldband. Since 2007, WOKM has been providing advanced technological tools and teaching methods to educators. These tools and methods enrich the environment in classrooms throughout Israel, as well as in Europe and South America. Heritage Academy is the first school in the United States to implement such a remarkable transformation as a partner with WOKM.
Students will make use of iPads, computers, and interactive white boards. Heritage will have some flipped classrooms where students will be able to watch lessons from their home computer as homework. The students will then come to class with questions and have time to apply what they are learning with the teacher present.
An evening session was held on August 20 to share with parents and community members about the exciting new advances at Heritage Academy. The faculty is excited to share the new technological tools and teaching methods with their students. The motto “Love, Learn, Lead” has taken on a new meaning for Heritage, as the talented educators prepare student leaders for the 21st Century.
THE SOLOMON SCHECHTER SCHOOL OF THE PIONEER VALLEY
257 Prospect St., Northampton, MA 01060
Lander-Grinspoon Academy (LGA) staff, students and families are very excited about our expanding outdoor education program, including our affiliation with Abundance Farm, an emerging Jewish food justice program, and an outdoor classroom. The farm is a collaboration between LGA, Congregation B’nai Israel and the Northampton Survival Center. The farm’s mission is to support local food security and create an outdoor learning environment that will be used by both LGA students and the B’nai Israel community.
The outdoor classroom provides LGA students with an opportunity to work together and encourages team building. It creates a chance for students to use materials that cannot be brought indoors and provides sensory opportunities – smell and touch – for students. Students are challenged to think about new ways of using these diverse materials and this leads to inquiry, conversations and lessons that can be brought back into the indoor classroom.
Hebrew and Judaics teacher Ann Armon taught a lesson to the first and second grade students on bikkur cholim and what a mitzvah it is to cheer up people who may be lonely, sick or new to the area.
Amy Meltzer, LGA’s Gan / Kindergarten teacher, has been using the outdoor space for gross motor activities, imaginative play, nature explorations and an introductory physics lesson. “A few of the Gan students wanted to build a seesaw. They experimented with sticks, stones, and small branches and finally I got a plank of wood for them,” said Morah Amy. “The students learned about successes and failures all on their own. Because a fulcrum is an essential part of a seesaw, we began a conversation as to how a seesaw actually works and the importance of the balance. This is a simple lesson in physics and it was all student-initiated.”
Nihli Simhai, former director of TEVA and a current LGA parent, is the lead volunteer with Abundance Farm and the force behind LGA’s outdoor classroom space. “In just a short time, we have seen the use of the farm grow exponentially. There are blackboards for lessons, clipboards for students to use, tables for group discussions – all located amongst the crops. LGA has expanded its playground area to accommodate outdoor learning for all ages; there are gathering spaces for conversation and prayer, balance beams and other gross motor activities, art areas with creative found materials, and a drama corner. Being outside lends something unexpected to teaching. The lessons are real and visually richer. When students come back into the building, they are refreshed and re-energized.”
Students also have the option of working in the farm during recess twice a week. In addition, LGA offers an afterschool farm elective on Wednesday afternoons.
LUBAVITCHER YESHIVA ACADEMY
1148 Converse St., Longmeadow, MA 01106
“As we continue to see an increase in enrollment in all departments, LYA staff mobilized over the summer to find space for new students and new classes in time for the opening of school,” commented Rabbi Noach Kosofsky, LYA Principal.
As students and families entered LYA, larger classes meant new configurations and enhancements in the building. The Early Childhood Department is enjoying the newly installed tile floors in the classrooms. Elementary students found that some of their classrooms were relocated to accommodate the restructuring of LYA’s middle school. LYA has seen a 25% increase in middle school students and this resulted in creating new schedules for the middle school, requiring LYA to hire more staff.
This October marks five years since LYA was reaccredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). For this milestone LYA will submit a five-year report in which the school reflects on its successes and sets goals for the next five years.
LYA administration and staff members strive to constantly challenge themselves to improve and raise the bar on educational excellence. The summer of 2014 was no exception. The Language Arts committee continued to review new curriculum material that will become part of the LYA’s Language Arts curriculum. The staff met as a group and took a booster session in the 7 Habits in preparation for modeling and using the 7 Habits with their students.
LYA has served the Jewish community of Western Massachusetts for close to seventy years. An LYA education offers excellence in Judaic and secular studies for toddlers through eighth grade with individualized attention, as well as providing family education, holiday programming, a Hebrew School and Hachai Hebrew High School.
METROWEST DAY SCHOOL
300 Pleasant St., Framingham, MA 01701
This year, MWJDS opened its doors on August 26 to nine grades: kindergarten through eighth grade. Students this year come from communities far and wide, including Worcester, Arlington, Newton, and of course Framingham and Natick. We unveiled our brand new playground at the Welcome Back BBQ. Our community raised over $20,000 to build this new play space.
Rav-Hazzan Scott Sokol is Head of School. He is a renowned pediatric neuropsychologist, with a high degree of expertise in child development and learning and has spent over 25 years in the fields of psychology and education, both secular and religious. We are also pleased to have Beth Null joining the staff as Director of Admissions and Community Outreach, Mara Rubenstein as Senior Development Associate, and Merlyn Carey as Dean of Students. This year the school welcomed Dr. Tal Katz to the Academic and Behavioral Support team. The school also continues its association with Gateways. Gateways’ mission is to provide high quality special education services, expertise and support, to enable students with diverse learning needs to succeed in Jewish educational settings and participate meaningfully in Jewish life.
MWJDS welcomed Hamorah Tali Mugg back to our Judaic Studies staff, where she will guide many of the middle school students through a year-long Torah Scrolls project. MWJDS’s Spanish Language and Cultural Studies program is led by Cantor Annelise Ocanto, of Congregation Beth Israel in Worcester.